It is true. That doyen of the cheap pint, Samuel Smith of Tadcaster has decided to get out of that particular game, with prices rises all round on re-opening. Well as far as we can make out that's the case, but of course, with Sam's, the facts are as murky as a Railway Arch Pint.
So what do we know? Samuel Smith, outside London is pretty cheap for draught beer and lager. In their heartland, pints are often £2 or less. Rumour now has it that mild and bitter will rise by a pound a pint and lager by up to £1.20. An entry on Facebook by one of their landlords, which seems to be a re-hashed version of something sent by the brewery to managers (all Sam's pubs are managed) - justifies the price increase. It reads roughly thus:
"We have had no choice but to raise our prices. For years Sam Smiths pricing has been way below our competitors. Our
family run company have been producing excellent value in brewing since
1758. In these uncertain times and let’s face it, no one really knows
what the future holds, to open up hundreds of pubs is really risky and
costly. We are just raising our prices inline or below of our brewing
Please bear in mind how really low our prices
we’re for years and at some point to sustain stability we have no choice
but get inline with everyone.
When I made a quick visit to the THT on Sunday, our landlord mentioned he had a Sam's manager in, who had mentioned in conversation, the price increase will be in the range I mention above. Now I can't yet actually confirm it and equally, I have no idea how prices will or won't change in London, or indeed how much we can depend on what we read elsewhere.
Sam's pubs operate without televisions, with no music - recorded or live; no use of phones, laptops or even Kindles, as well as being liberally emblazoned by signs telling you in no uncertain terms what you can or can't do within. It probably isn't unfair to say that part of the quid pro quo for doing what you are told is low prices. Having said all that, the actual sentiment of catching up may
have some validity. Outside London, for draught products only, Sam's
pubs are cheap as chips. In fact, cheaper than chips if you drink mild -
but it is a bit of a gamble to pile it all on at once. Given the odd
way Humphrey operates, like an East
German holiday camp, he attracts a certain kind of customer.
Now if you are paying bottom dollar for your ale, you may well be minded to put up with all this, but if a price rise take your pint to broadly in line with elsewhere and you realise that five pints cost you a fiver more, I dare say many won't. After all, why pay £3 a pint to put up with Humphrey's lopsided world, when you can go elsewhere and won't have to?
Whichever way you look at it, this is a gamble and it signposts, the end of a unique business model, but if it backfires, it may also be the last blast of Humph's reign. Wetherspoon's may be the likely beneficiary of any ex Sam's customers. While the Bailiwick of the opinions of another lopsided eccentric, you can at leastphone your pals about it, while gently effing and jeffing. And you can get cask ale, which you can't in almost all the 33 Sam's pubs in my area. Can't see it helping to re-open the many Sam's pubs which are currently closed. You would have thought that a slow increase might have worked better, rather than a short, sharp shock. Then again, people have short memories.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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